Pearse McCabe, director, Dragon Rouge
Pearse McCabe, director, Dragon Rouge
A view from Pearse McCabe

Think BR: Shaping up your brand personality

It's more important than ever to get your brand personality right and make it as sharp as it can be, writes Pearse McCabe, director, Dragon Rouge.

Some of us will remember workshops 20 years ago where we were asked to use the analogy of cars, animals, drinks or celebrities to explain our brands to those around us. 

The point was to provide more richness and detail about our brand. We all found this useful because it gave us some clues and direction around how we should think, look and behave as a brand.

Fast forward 20 years. It's a noisy, busy, confusing, complex, chaotic, overwhelming, intimidating, messy world out there.

Personality has become more important because it has helped to address some of the demands on brands in today’s customer and consumer culture.

It seems to help us navigate this world with a little bit more ammunition. It's the essential bridge between who you are and how you communicate with your customers. So how exactly does it help us?

1. Clear differentiation

Well the first reason is clear differentiation. This is obvious and not worth dwelling on. This reason has existed since we started to brand.

Where there is parity in terms of proposition, brand personality can help you stand out. The other reasons are more of a product of the time we live in.

2. Deeper connection

We know that deeper connection leads to engagement which leads to transaction. And if all those things work out well for the customer you get loyalty as a brand. That’s the end goal.

So if we go back to the beginning of this chain, we have realised as brands that our customers are people or groups of people, and the way to connect with people is to be like them in some way. We realise the power of human relations and how these are at the basis of growth.

Last time I looked Sir Richard Branson had 2,219,678 followers on Twitter and Virgin Atlantic had 77,845. People like people and the reality is that they don’t like brands as much.

And what this results in is a tendency for people to use the model of human relations and apply it to the non-human world around them in order gain a better understanding of what they like, don’t like, are drawn to, repelled by and find interesting, etc. So as brands we need to be exploiting this natural human tendency

3. The need to involve

Brands will live and die based on their ability to create customer relevant propositions and the way to do this efficiently and properly is to involve your customers in the process; customers are going to be critical in terms of you creating the right proposition for your marketplace.

But if you are going to involve people you need to know how you go about doing this. Customers will be easier to engage if you have an identifiable brand personality - a way of thinking and behaving that seems real and actually demands respect and care from those customers you involve.

4. Always on society

You all know about this digital stuff. On the digital front there is website, mobile, tablet and all the apps related to this. Brands have to be always on.

But there is still a market for real-time real life experiences whether that is a carefully managed brand experience in an airport or a distress phonecall to your bank. 

Customers now have both the inclination and the tools to get in touch, give feedback, praise, be critical and even trash your brand anytime of the day or night. As long as you give them the opportunity, they can transact with you.

You need to have a way of dealing with these interactions that represents your brand with attitude, content and behaviour that is appropriate but also distinctive.

The thing about having a personality is that you can respond, react and evolve to what is happening around you.

People expect this of other people and now we think that they expect it of brands. Customers expect brands to be relevant and timely in how they interact with the world. 

Personality gives you a construct for how you think, what is your proactive behaviour and how you should respond to any given situation.

So how do you make it the sharpest possible tool it can be?

1. Spend time sweating over the contentious dimensions and don’t just use words

After getting some general agreement using a tool like archetypes to identify the emotional territory of the brand, it is important to drill down on the different personality dimensions that are critical to your brand. 

These will be the ones where there may be disagreement: "Yes we are contemporary, but how contemporary?"

Use architecture, furniture, fashion, style of copy, etc, don’t just use words. You’ll end up with a very specific set of characteristics that represents your brand.

2. "Over describe" your personality

Don’t be afraid to flesh out you personality to the nth detail. Ask yourself these questions of your brand:

  • If you had to describe the kind of person you are, what would you say in one sentence?
  • How would you describe your outlook on life?
  • What is your attitude to relationships?
  • Describe your principles and beliefs?
  • What is your attitude to place and environment?
  • How would you describe your sense of humour?

You cannot over do this process in too much detail.

3. "Stress test" your personality

The one way you know you have a robust and coherent personality is to put it through a number of scenarios, the more stressful the better. 

So consider your response as a brand if suddenly you have to withdraw a product because of contamination or what you do if somebody hacks your Twitter or Facebook. And keeping going. 

Again, you can’t do enough of this. If the answer comes easily then you know you’ve got a personality that is fit for purpose in today’s marketing world.

Invest the time in sorting this out up front and your brand will naturally express itself. Time spent at this end of the process will save you untold time at the other end.

Pearse McCabe, director, Dragon Rouge